11th Dec, 2016

Bin men go on strike over claims of Coventry Council 'cover-up'

Coventry Editorial 9th Feb, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

BINS in Coventry have gone uncollected today (Tuesday) after a bin man put up a poster accusing Coventry City Council of a ‘cover-up’.

Hayden Jones, Unite union convener at the Whitley depot, put up posters in support of ‘Mark and Charlie’ – two fellow refuse collectors who had appealed to the Council that they were being bullied at work after their grievance hearing had been dismissed.

Standing up for his fellow bin men, Mr Jones put up posters on Thursday, (February 4) which read: “Mark and Charlie need to be supported to help stop the continued cover-up by senior employees at Coventry City Council. And I believe these are supported in this cover-up by elected members.”

But, as a result of his actions, he was suspended on Friday – accused of ‘gross misconduct’ and inciting unlawful industrial action.

In a show of solidarity and in response to Mr Jones’ suspension, fellow bin men from the Whitley depot staged a walk out today (Tuesday) and took to the Council House steps to protest the disciplinary action.

Having gone through the Council’s formal grievance procedure and failed, the pair appealed on ‘point of principle’ that parts of their case had been overlooked.

On a subsequent visit to the plant Council Leader Ann Lucas was asked by a member of staff why Mark and Charlie were not allowed to appeal the decision to elected members – a fact she said she would look into.

The late Coventry Councillor Phil Townshend then took on the case and recommended that ‘on point of principle’ the pair should be able to make an appeal – setting an appeal date for January 22 this year.

But Unite’s regional officer Alan Lewis said on the day of the appeal meeting, Councillors called the Unite representative into the room and read him a pre-prepared statement saying there was no ‘point of principle’ on the matter and the appeal would not go ahead.

Mr Lewis added: “On the face of it, it looked like someone had got to the elected members before us.

“Instead of hearing what our representative had to say, or let him ask questions, Councillors denied the appeal.

“To have read that statement out before the appeal process, they have flown in the face of logic and undermined the position taken by Phil Townshend who is no longer here to vouch for why he thought there was an appeal to be had.

“The Council is using the fact that Phil Townshend is no longer with us to refuse the men’s right to appeal.”

Recognising today’s action as an ‘unofficial strike’, Mr Lewis said even if Unite balloted its members and made the strike official a resolution between the bin men and the Council still had to be reached.

He added: “I think I have been very reasonable in my response to the Council and hopefully we will be able to discuss the inferences of Hayden Jones’ notice but also discuss why Mark and Charlie’s appeal process did not go ahead.”

Confirming the strike and apologising for inconveniences caused, a Council spokesperson said: “The Council does not recognise unofficial action of this kind and will be meeting with union representatives as soon as possible to try and resolve the situation.

“In the meantime, residents due a collection today are asked to leave their bins out. If they aren’t collected today, people need to take them back in and they will be collected on the next scheduled collection day.”